At The National Council of Jewish Women

The NCJW has a sister senior center in Brooklyn that my mother was a member of for many years. She had lunch there, acted in plays, sang in the chorus, and brought her broken appliances to the retired fix-it man who set up shop in the lobby. The Council Center, as she called it, definitely lives up to the mission stated on its website: to address the social, intellectual, and creative needs of seniors. The centers serve seniors who are mobile and live in their own homes, so most of their programming takes place during the day—not so convenient for POHCers who work. Choir turnout was expected to be low, and so it was at the start of the warmups. But one by one, singers came rushing in on their lunch hour, slipping into formation as Rene was trying out a few bars of each song. By the end of the warmups, we were over twenty strong. Go POHC!

Gary introduced the choir, told a bit about our history, and said, “The only thing we like better than singing is being sung to, so we expect you to join in on the sing-alongs.” They had song sheets on their chairs and were game.

We opened with Siyahama. No surprise there. Next came Pokarekare Ana. Rene played a few notes on the ukulele and decided to start over, saying, “I went to the wrong island.” Laughs.

This was a concert where Rene didn’t have a program set up ahead of time. After we finished a song, he chose the song to come next, often asking us which it should be. The audience appeared to like this part of the process, too.

The sing-alongs got them participating: Down by the Riverside, If I Had a Hammer, Michael Row Your Boat Ashore, Od Yavo, resurrected from a prior season. Rock-a-My Soul received the most applause, probably because the entire choir intermingled with the audience for the three-part round, and everyone was revved up. In between the singalongs we did our own numbers: Lonesome Road, Water is Wide, Give us Hope. After Guantanamera, a woman asked what the words meant. Rene gave a quick translation: I’m a man from Guantanamo and I want to release my words – based on the poem by Jose Marti. Everyone seemed interested. Before our final Let There be Peace, Gary gave closing remarks, thanking the NCJW for having us, and inviting everyone to come to our June concert.

One of the women I talked to afterward said the song sheet didn’t contain all the words. When I explained that the handouts were just for the singalongs, that there were other songs only for the choir, the woman sitting next to her said, “See? I told you.” They both wanted to know where we rehearsed, how often, and exactly where the June concert was going to be. When I told them Baruch, one of them said, "Oh, good. I live in that neighborhood.” I was surprised that she had come so far. Then I remembered that my mother used to take the bus each day to the Council Center, even though there was a different center closer to her house. The NCJW centers are special places, and it was special for me that we were part of their programming today.

-Choir Singer

It has become a tradition for a member of POHC to do a post-concert write-up. It started when our Sign-up Coordinator began emailing her summaries to the other members in order to entice newer members to sign-up to sing at community concerts held early in the season. It didn’t take long for Concert Write-ups to become greatly anticipated amongst our members, so we share them here in hopes that you’ll join us at a future concert